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Mark 10: 23 – 26

And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?”

If Jesus was teaching that rich people cannot get into heaven, then why were his own disciples astonished? Why has this come as such a surprise to them? After all, they have been following him around for some time. They were living in a totally different mindset than we are today. Wealthy people were the spiritual leaders and all of the spiritual leaders and wise fathers were wealthy. Abraham was very rich. To the disciples this was like Jesus telling them that Father Abraham couldn’t get into heaven. In their minds, if rich people couldn’t get into heaven, then no one could. Furthermore, they were men of means. Peter and his brother, Andrew, owned their own fishing business and James and John were partnered with their father in their own fishing business. Matthew was a tax collector. Tax collectors were wealthy and well educated though despised, probably because they collected taxes for the Roman authority. Because of their wealth they were not only astonished but also a bit concerned. You see that in their entreaty about leaving behind everything to follow Jesus. They apparently didn’t sell everything they had because they reveal here that they left it at home. They left their worldly goods behind. They did not give it away. Matthew used his immense wealth to throw Jesus a big party (Luke 5: 29). He must have had a big house too because the scripture says “there was a great crowd.” David was rich. His son Solomon was the richest man in history, even to this day. What sense would it have made to the disciples for Jesus to say that rich men couldn’t get into heaven? Abraham was already there (see Luke 16). 

But Jesus was not telling them that rich people couldn’t or wouldn’t get into heaven. He wasn’t even telling them that it is hard for them to get into heaven. He did not even mention heaven until the last sentence. How is this reconciled then? Jesus was teaching them about the kingdom of God, not the kingdom of heaven. These are related but different subjects and understanding that clears up the confusion evidenced by the apostles. We will see it more clearly tomorrow.

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